The years of rookies taking time to marinate on NFL depth charts before exploding with high-level production are in the past. Rookies are now some of the best values in best ball drafts with season-defining upside if everything falls in line.
Opinions vary on the strength of this year’s draft class, but I’m here to tell you that I’ll have heavy exposure to this year’s crop of rookies.
- Best Ball Draft Primers: QB | RB | WR | TE
- Dynasty Trade Value Chart
- Dynasty Rookie Primers: QB | RB | WR | TE
- Latest Dynasty Rookie Mock Draft
Rookies to Target in Best Ball (2023 Fantasy Football)
Here are the rookies I’m targeting in best ball leagues.
I. SAID IT.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba Bryce Young in SF Rookie Drafts. I love Alpha WRs.
— Derek Brown (@DBro_FFB) March 30, 2023
Since Jaxon Smith-Njigba was announced as the Seahawks’ pick in the NFL Draft, worries have been circulating about Seattle’s usage of three wide receiver sets and his target share with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. These are valid concerns, but before I push back against them, let’s discuss Smith-Njigba as a talent. In 2021 he was first in yards per route run and first in PFF receiving grade (minimum 50 targets per PFF) while drawing a 22.7% target share alongside Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. Smith-Njigba gets typecast as a low aDOT player, but he has also shown the ability to win downfield. In 2021 he was ninth in yards per route run and tied for first in PFF’s deep receiving grade (minimum 15 deep targets per PFF). Smith-Njigba is an elite-level prospect. With that said, I have a hard time believing the Seahawks burnt a first-round pick on a player they don’t plan to feature, so I believe they will run a ton of 11 personnel in 2023. Regarding the subject of target share, Smith-Njigba can put those concerns to rest quickly and hit the ground running as the second option in this passing attack. While I don’t want to take anything away from Tyler Lockett, he hasn’t been a high-end target earner. Over the last four seasons, he’s never ranked higher than 36th in target per route run rate. The addition of Smith-Njigba can allow Lockett to return to stretching the field. Since 2019 he’s ranked top-12 in deep targets twice. Last year he logged the second-lowest aDOT of his career and the lowest YAC per reception mark. Smith-Njigba should garner targets early and often in 2023. Draft him and enjoy.
— NFL (@NFL) May 15, 2023
Ok. Deep breath. Here’s the list of injuries Mike Williams has sustained since entering the NFL: herniated disk, knee strain, back spasms, hamstring strain, hip flexor strain, high ankle sprain (twice), and transverse process fracture. I bring this up because Quentin Johnston could be operating as the Chargers’ WR2 sooner rather than later. That type of upside in his rookie season shouldn’t be ignored in an offensive system that could challenge for the league lead in passing attempts and play volume. Even if he doesn’t supplant Williams this season, Johnston offers this offense a different element as a RAC specialist. Last year Johnston ranked sixth in YAC per reception and 11th in missed tackles forced (minimum 50 targets per PFF). Kellen Moore can design looks for Justin Herbert to get Johnston the ball in space and let him do his thing. Johnston is an affordable stacking option with Herbert. The Week 17 correlation degens like myself will also love that the Bolts play Denver, who allowed the most missed tackles in the NFL last year.
Day one of #Vikings rookie minicamp. We got a good look at WR Jordan Addison and QB Jaren Hall.
Hall on Addison "The man runs smooth routes, I got to get him some better balls, help him out a little bit, but he runs great routes and he is going to be a great player." pic.twitter.com/ZnmMtwYZzQ
— Alec Ausmus (@A_TwiceKSTP) May 12, 2023
Last year Adam Thielen earned a 17.0% target share and 107 targets. He did this while ranking outside the top 55 wide receivers in yards per route run and route win rate (per Playerprofiler.com). Why can’t a talented first-round wide receiver match (or easily exceed) these volume numbers in his first season? Addison can. He absolutely can. Addison has ranked 22nd or higher in yards per route run and PFF receiving grade in each of his last two collegiate seasons (minimum 50 targets per PFF). The Vikings were third in neutral passing rate and second in red zone passing rate last season. I don’t see them dropping outside the top 5-10 teams this season in either category. Addison could be a WR2 in fantasy if he can pass T.J. Hockenson in the target pecking order.